Widening the circle of friends and loved ones in the fight against cancer is the idea behind the island’s third walkathon celebration.
The American Cancer Society of the Virgin Islands adds man’s best friend to the mix by bringing Bark for Life to the Emmaus Moravian Church Field in Coral Bay March 15. The event, adopted by the cancer society nationwide in 2009, Bark for Life is billed as a canine event to fight cancer.
Bark for Life is a variation on the familiar Relay For Life, the day-into-night walk around the track, raising thousands of dollars to help Virgin Islanders meet their medical expenses.
The overnight relays have been very successful on St. Thomas and St. Croix and for the first St. John Relay for Life in 2011.
A split took place among organizers a few months later with the formation of the St. John Cancer Fund. But the turnout for Relay for Life 2013, held at the Winston Wells Ball Park in Cruz Bay, remained strong.
Now American Cancer Society of the VI Executive Director Lorraine Baa says she hopes a new type of family oriented fun will bring supporters out again.
“It’s a canine event to fight cancer,” said Baa. “You walk your dog. Our goal is to raise $45,000 on the island of St. John.”
Baa calls the March 15 event a grass roots effort to rally residents around the cancer society’s efforts. It’s the third time St. John has hosted its own cancer fundraiser.
Bringing in community support is important, the director said, because the economic environment makes fundraising more challenging.
This year, for Bark for Life, teams will include canine partners. St. John cancer survivors are invited to kick off the four hour event with a walk around the field. Then, Baa said, they will be invited to sit and enjoy a day’s worth of contests and entertainment.
“There’s going to be some dog activities, festivities and things people who like dogs like to do,” she said.
The fun starts after the end of the scheduled 4 p.m. opening ceremonies.
A grand marshall will lead a Bark for Life Parade, followed by the survivor’s walk.
Team walks begin at 5 p.m. and continues through 8 p.m. Teams of 15 signing up this year will pay a $150 team registration fee and each team member can raise $100 apiece.
An event king and queen will be chosen and crowned at a coronation ceremony at 5:30 p.m.
Then the pets get a chance to do their thing with a contest to pick the most clever trick and the best dog handler.
In a look alike contest, judges will look for the most striking similarities between pets and their owners.
Judges will also pick the cutest pet.
Then comes Oscar night and selection of the winner for the Golden Pooch award. Prizes will also be given for the top fundraising teams, the best costumed team.
As twilight leads into night the Moravian field is expected to light up with a Luminara ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Survivors will again walk along the field, and have a chance to share their experiences about living with cancer.
The Coral Bay fundraiser with Bark for Life is a first for the American Cancer Society of the Virgin Islands. Later this year, Baa said, another Bark for Life will be held at Antilles School.
Funds raised through these events will help cancer patients meet the cost of travel for treatment and other treatment-related expenses. The money derived from these events is becoming more important, Baa said, because more help is being sought, especially by cancer patients on St. Croix.
For further information, or to pick up a sponsorship package, contact ACSVI at 340-775-5373.
Dr. Iris Kern is this year’s chairperson for the ACS St. John Bark for Life fundraising event.